As news organizations struggle to reinvent themselves, "newsrooms need to be in a sort of permanent BETA mode," says Global Editors Network (GEN) Deputy Director Antoine Laurent.
“Newsrooms have to systematize a new kind of innovation process in order to produce new apps, interactive content, data visualization and newsgaming projects," Laurent said. He manages the Editors’ Lab, which brings together journalists and technologists for hackdays to do just that.
This weekend, 14 teams from across South Africa will gather in Cape Town for Sub-Saharan Africa's first newsroom hackday. Three-person teams -- each consisting of a journalist, designer and developer -- from all of South Africa’s major news organizations will compete. At the two-day event hosted by digital news publisher 24.com, the teams will use public data and other content to build mobile apps or digital tools that help audiences better understand or engage with the world around them.
Preliminary ideas include apps and tools to help citizens report corruption, bribes or potholes; to track politicians' election promises; and to monitor schools' performance.
Previous Editors’ Labs have been hosted at world-renowned newsrooms including the New York Times, the Guardian and Spain's El País. “The program of Hackdays is a kind of world cup of innovation in journalism,” Laurent said in a release. The event will aim to “meet the community of newsroom innovators and give them the attention and the credit they deserve -- and to share experiences among their counterparts around the world.”
GEN, Google and the African Media Initiative (AMI), the continent’s largest association of media owners and operators, organized the event.
The best projects created at the hackathon will win ZAR 20,000 (about US$2,000), as well as tickets to the 2014 GEN Summit in Barcelona, Spain. There, South African winners will compete against their counterparts from around the world, at the annual Editors Lab Hackathon.
After the Hackday, AMI’s Code for Africa laboratories in South Africa and Kenya will help teams turn their ideas and rough prototypes into real newsroom products.
“We’re hoping to find some great ideas here, that we can help scale globally through things like our African News Innovation Challenge" and similar support programs, said Justin Arenstein, AMI chief strategist and an ICFJ Knight International Journalism Fellow. Arenstein is also a judge in GEN's Global Data Journalism Awards.
Judges for the South Africa event include Laurent, Arenstein and Memeburn editor Michelle Atagana.
Image courtesy of Flickr user hackNY under a Creative Commons license.